Workshop for the Humanities in Business Education – A Toolbox in the Making

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Three days of humanities, business, problems, and possibilities. The “Workshop for Humanities and Social Sciences in Management Education: Writing – Researching – Teaching”, was the latest meeting of the minds of teachers, professors and students in the ongoing debate on how to integrate humanities and social sciences to business education.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – The Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching published a report, ‘Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education’ which sparked a debate among European- and US-based scholars about the integration of the humanities and social sciences in business education. After stops in both America and Switzerland the train made its latest stop in Copenhagen at the conference “Workshop: Humanities and Social Sciences in Management Education: Writing – Researching –Teaching”. What worked, what did not, and where is the debate heading next? We asked one of the organizers to review the Copenhagen conference.

With fellow organizers Timon Beyes and Mathias Adam Munch from Copenhagen Business School (CBS), Rasmus Johnsen, Assistant Professor at CBS, is pleased with the result.

“It went above my expectations. One of the professors said that he was impressed both with the amount of effort that was put into it, but also with the students, who were able to reflect on their point of view, stand by it and respond to the question posed by a vice president of a university. For me, that was one of the best comments I got,” says Johnsen.

The hands-on approach
Rasmus Johnsen speaks at the workshop; Source: Camila Falkenberg

Rasmus Johnsen speaks at the workshop; Source: Camila Falkenberg

The second Carnegie Report from 2011 was what started the meetings. The report advocated that business leaders be educated not only in the financial methods of business but also for the societies and the people it impacts, especially in light of the 2008 financial crisis. And it is the constant development, not only of business, but society as well, that the disciplinary star-gazers discuss.

“We try to give the students a broader sense of the practice of business by bringing humanities, philosophy and sociology to the table. We ask questions like: What is the practice of business itself? What problems will the students encounter after graduation? How should they deal with dilemmas in their work life? These meetings are a sort of toolbox in the making that the students can use when they enter the engine room of the business community,” Johnsen explains.

After attending the two previous meetings, Johnsen wanted a discussion that was more practice oriented. He wanted a hands-on approach.

“One of the characteristics of the meetings has been an enormous interest, but also a kind of perplexity that often occurs when people with the same beliefs come together to discuss them. We first needed to establish that we were all on the same page. That was fine for the first two meetings, but I felt that something needed to happen at the third meeting,” Johnsen says.

He elaborates: “We needed to be more practical, asking questions such as: How do we actually build a curriculum by combining two seemingly different disciplines? How can we implement this in our lectures? And also, who are the students? Generally we call them students, but the conference participants are teaching students at schools in America, Europe and Scandinavia, from different layers of society. We need to keep in mind that the classrooms of Denmark are different from the ones in France and USA.”

To move the process forward, summaries of the lectures given by some of the participants, journalistic articles and a brief report were implemented in the workshop in Copenhagen.

And to support the goal of a more practical approach, the conference held a workshop in collaboration with the philosophical business economics Bachelors program at CBS, FLØK.

“FLØK is almost a philosophical laboratory at CBS and it is constantly a work in progress. FLØK explicitly address purposes and responsibilities for the business sector for society, national and global, and aims to cultivate humanistic thinking, education and reflexivity in its students. The workshop aimed to contribute to current efforts at CBS to enhance the effectiveness of the program by enlisting the workshop participants in an analysis and design exercise,” Johnsen explains.

What is the next stop?

Johnsen’s overall aspiration was to share experiences with the other professors, but also to establish a catalogue of ideas for the toolbox in the making. Even though he is very happy with the results of the workshop, there is still room for improvement.

“If I have to say something critical it is that I would have liked it to be even more practice oriented and by that I mean, not just a reflection of the ideas of how it should be, but also how it is actually done. St. GallenCBS and many more already teach these things. How do they go about it? What are the difficulties? What works? That needs to be on the agenda from now on,” Johnsen assesses.

Apart from the summaries, articles and mini report, some of the participants gave lectures on their current research projects. These projects are contributions to what will eventually result in the upcoming book, Routledge Companion the Humanities and Social Sciences in Management Education.

“My expectations are that we meet again next year and continue the debate and keep momentum. But I also hope that we can pass on the torch to another university aside from CBS or the University of St. Gallen,” Johnsen concludes.

The workshop in Copenhagen and its sister workshop held in St. Gallen in 2012 are supported by the German Haniel Foundation and Horstmann Foundation.

This summer, as a part of this collaboration, the “European Haniel Program on Entrepreneurship and the Humanities” will bring together 30 students from the University of St. Gallen and 30 students from CBS for the European Haniel Program’s first summer school.

This post is produced in partnership with GRASP Magazine and Student Reporter and part of our joint project on Humanities and the Social Sciences in Management Education, specifically covering the Carnegie Roundtable Workshop at Copenhagen Business School. 

Guest writer Camilla Falkenberg from Copenhagen, Denmark is studying a Master of Publication with a speciality in religious minorities at the University of Southern Denmark and the University of Copenhagen. She is a writer for GRASP Magazine.

Featured image source: Student Reporter

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